Earthquakes-Rapids Preview

A victory at San Jose last month put the Colorado Rapids in

prime position to return to the playoffs.

The defending MLS champions haven’t won since, however, and a

postseason berth is no longer a sure thing.

The Rapids try to avoid losing a fourth straight MLS game for

the first time in four years Saturday night when they host the

Earthquakes.

San Jose midfielder Joey Gjertsen scored in the 22nd minute at

Buck Shaw Stadium on Aug. 13 to give his team a 1-0 lead over

Colorado (10-9-11), but the Rapids recovered. Forward Caleb Folan

tied the score on a penalty kick in the 39th minute, and Jeff

Larentowicz’s goal in the 72nd minute gave Colorado a 2-1

victory.

That was the Rapids’ third straight win and gave them 40 points,

10 above the playoff cutoff.

Colorado followed up its win in San Jose with a draw against

Chivas USA, but has been outscored 5-1 in losing three MLS matches

since – all on the road. It’s second among the four teams currently

leading the wild-card hunt, with a five-point advantage on New York

– the last team out.

“I firmly believe we can make the playoffs,” midfielder Jamie

Smith told the Rapids’ official website. “If we apply ourselves the

way we can, there will be nothing to prevent this team from making

the playoffs.”

That starts with getting the offense back on track.

Sanna Nyassi’s goal in the 69th minute in last Saturday’s 2-1

loss to Toronto FC ended a 270-minute scoreless drought. Prior to

their skid, the Rapids had recorded eight straight multigoal games,

tallying 19 total.

“It’s not a lack of creation, it is what is coming out of that

at the moment that is the problem,” coach Gary Smith said.

Smith hopes opening a three-game homestand can help Colorado

avoid its first four-game losing streak since a five-game slide

from June 2-28, 2007. The Rapids, 3-0-3 at Dick’s Sporting Goods

Park since July, won both home games over the Earthquakes last

season, including a 1-0 victory in the Eastern Conference

championship.

“We’ll get back home now and we know we have to come out of our

shell, get some points and boost our confidence,” Smith said.

“Right now, I have to say, though, that this is one of the most

difficult periods we have been in since I have been here.”

Although the Rapids’ confidence is a little shaken, at least

they’re still on the right side of the playoff bubble.

That’s more than the Earthquakes (6-11-12) – seven points out

with five games remaining – can say. Considering they’ve earned six

points in their last nine matches and are 1-7-8 since June 17,

their chances of making the playoffs appear slim.

San Jose is unbeaten in its last four, however, after salvaging

a 1-all draw Wednesday against Portland.

Khari Stephenson scored from 18 yards out in the 70th minute.

Stephenson, second on the Earthquakes with five goals, has scored

in each of the last two games after going 10 matches without a

goal.